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Types of Room Air Conditioners

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In many parts of the country, the hot summer months can be almost unbearable without a proper cooling system in place. These days, many homes and offices have central AC systems that eat up energy bills, often just to cool the few rooms they spend time in. If this scenario applies to you–or if you don't currently have a central AC and are looking for a less expensive alternative–look no further than a room air conditioner.

There are 5 major types of room air conditioners to choose from. These include:

  • Portable Air Conditioners
  • Window Air Conditioners
  • Through-the-Wall Air Conditioners
  • Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioners
  • Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners (PTACs)

Portable Air Conditioners

Portable air conditioners are freestanding floor systems that cool a space by pulling in fresh air, removing heat and dehumidifying it, and returning it into your space while exhausting hot air. To cool properly, portable AC systems must be configured to release hot air outside through a window–such as a vertical sash or sliding-style window–a specially created wall hole, or upward through a drop ceiling plenum. Almost all portable air conditioners come with a window kit and exhaust accessories that allow you to easily set up the exhaust configuration.

Window Air Conditioners

In contrast, window AC units are designed to be installed inside a vertical sash window or, in some cases, through a measured and prepared wall hole. These appliances sit on top of the window frame in a partially opened window–or on the wall frame–with the hot air exhaust system facing outside and the cool air return system facing inside.

Through-the-Wall Air Conditioners

Very similar to window air conditioners, thru-the-wall air conditioners are window-style ACs designed instead to install through a wall inside a chassis sleeve. In many cases, through-wall units can be installed flush with a wall for a streamlined appearance. Through-wall ACs differ from window ACs mainly in their housing design, cooling capacity, and weight. Unlike window units, thru-wall units typically do not have venting mechanisms on each side of the housing. This is because the venting grilles would be blocked in a through-wall application, which would lower the unit's cooling efficiency. Through-wall ACs are typically available in higher cooling capacities than window AC models and weigh slightly more.

Ductless Mini-Split System Air Conditioners

Popular for their high-efficiency cooling, ductless air conditioners provide quiet, unobtrusive cooling for multiple "zones" within a home, office, or commercial space. Unlike portable AC units and window-style ACs, mini-split air conditioners are not self-contained appliances. They also do not require ducting like central air conditioners. These systems have two basic parts: a large condenser unit that installs outdoors and one or more compact wall-mountable blower units that are placed strategically inside the space(s), or zones, you want to cool.

When installed, insulated conduit housing the refrigeration lines runs from the outside condenser unit to the blower system(s) indoors. Each wall-mounted blower system can be controlled independently to provide comfortable room cooling right where you need it. Ductless mini-split system air conditioners are known for their high cooling efficiency, quiet operation, and slim profiles in your space.

PTAC Cooling & Heating 

Package Terminal Air Conditioners (PTACs) are commercial-grade models usually installed in hotels, assisted living facilities, and offices. PTACs are capable of cooling and heating spaces of nearly any size, and most brands allow you to control multiple units from one location.

Though PTAC AC units are popular in the hospitality industry, they're also used in sun rooms and various other residential spaces. They’re typically installed through an external wall right above the floor and often under a window.Check out our selection to see if we offer one that matches your needs. 

Primary vs. Supplementary Use

Each system can provide efficient cooling in your environment in two ways:

  • Primary Sources of Cooling – Portable, window, and thru-wall ACs are often used as the primary sources of cooling in rooms that are not accessible by a central air conditioner. All you need is a window or a custom-designed wall space that allows you to exhaust hot air outside. Ductless mini-splits can cool and add warmth to multiple areas of a single home or apartment. PTACs provide primary cooling to hotel rooms and other small rooms.
  • Supplementary Sources of Cooling – Portable, window, and thru-wall ACs can also be used as supplementary cooling systems in rooms that are already covered by a central air conditioner. To gain the most energy efficiency, you'll need to offset your usage of a central AC by turning up your thermostat (or turning it off) and letting the room air conditioner do most of the cooling work.

For additional information, read our companion article on choosing an air conditioner for your space.

Still Have Questions?

For more information on Sylvane's room air conditioner solutions–and for a free consultation on treatment options for your indoor environment–please call our product experts at 1-800-934-9194. In addition, visit our Knowledge Center for more informative articles on room air conditioners. We want to help make your indoor air healthy and comfortable.

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